National: U.S. to Sanction Russia, Expel Diplomats Over Alleged Election Interference, Hacking | Michael R. Gordon, Dustin Volz and Vivian Salama/Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration will impose a range of retaliatory measures against Russia on Thursday in response to Moscow’s alleged election interference, a widespread hacking campaign and other malign activity, according to people familiar with the matter. Using a new executive order, the measure will expand the existing prohibitions on U.S. banks trading in Russian government debt, two of the people said. Previous prohibitions targeting portions of Russian sovereign debt shook Russia’s markets and added to its economic woes. That order prohibits U.S. financial institutions from buying new bonds directly from Russia’s central bank, finance ministry and the country’s massive sovereign-wealth fund after June 14. Among other measures, 10 Russian diplomats will be expelled, including some due to allegations that Russia offered to pay bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. military service members, the people said. Sanctions will be imposed for Russia’s cyber intrusions, election meddling and occupation of Crimea.

Full Article: U.S. to Sanction Russia, Expel Diplomats Over Alleged Election Interference, Hacking – WSJ

Georgia’s Voting Law Will Make Elections Easier to Hack | Lawrence Norden and Gowri Ramachandran/Slate

When Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s new restrictive voting provisions into law, he claimed the controversial changes—including making it harder to request mail ballots and use drop boxes—are necessary to improve election security. These bills, of course, spring from the Big Lie about our elections, but there is another irony here. Much of the “election integrity” legislation in Georgia and around the country would actually weaken our election systems and reduce their capacity to recover from a technological problem, whether a malfunction or an attack. During the 2020 election, the increased variety in voting methods and the longer time frame for voting meant that, in many states, election officials were handling smaller groups of voters and ballots at once than they were in past elections. If a technological problem arose, the reduced crowds made it easier to diagnose and solve the problem and get voters voting again. For example, during early voting in 2020, Georgia’s statewide voter registration database was having trouble handling the logins of election staff across the state. The problem caused extremely long lines. Georgia officials weren’t able to fix it immediately, but within a few days the issue was addressed, lines improved, and voters who might have not been able to stand in long lines because of work or other obligations still had opportunities to cast their ballot. If there had only been one or two days for in-person voting, those voters might not have had another chance. And the lines would have been even longer, with many more voters showing up to cast their ballot at once. Many of the so-called election integrity bills would reduce the availability of ballot drop boxes—one bill in Florida would eliminate them entirely. During the 2020 election, drop boxes were a convenient voting option for many people who might have been concerned about the reliability of the post office: Voters could drop their absentee ballot into a nearby box instead of showing up to polling places on Election Day. This helped reduce the lines at polling places for those voters who preferred or needed the in-person option instead. Drop boxes helped all voters—absentee and in-person—by making sure they didn’t all show up to the polling place on Election Day, which would have made it harder for poll workers to deal with inevitable technical problems or cyberattacks. Even if fears of delays with the postal system subside in the future, cyberattacks or staffing cuts could result in slow mail service, or election officials could have trouble processing ballot requests quickly, leading to delays in voters receiving their ballots in time to mail them back. Drop boxes will help ensure the resiliency of the system.

Full Article: Restrictive voting laws don’t enhance election security. They threaten it.

National: Hundreds of corporations, business leaders, celebs sign statement against voting restrictions | Hannah Miao/CNBC

Hundreds of corporations, executives and celebrities released a statement Wednesday in opposition to “any discriminatory legislation or measures” that would restrict ballot access. Signatories include corporations such as AmazonBlackRock and General Motors and individuals such as Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and music star Ariana Grande. The statement is the latest and largest showing of corporate backlash to GOP-backed election bills in state legislatures across the country that civil rights advocates say will make it harder for minorities to vote. Ken Chenault, former American Express CEO, and Ken Frazier, chief executive of Merck, organized the statement, according to The New York Times, which first reported on the statement. The statement appeared in print advertisements Wednesday in the Times and The Washington Post. American AirlinesAppleBank of AmericaCiscoFacebookMicrosoftNetflixStarbucksTargetTwitter and Vanguard were among dozens of corporate names to sign the statement.

Full Article: Corporations, business leaders, celebrities sign statement against voting restrictions

National: Smartmatic Responds To Fox News Defense In $2.7 Billion Defamation Lawsuit | Ted Johnson/Deadline

Smartmatic said that Fox News cannot get a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card” to escape a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit, in which the company says that the network ruined its reputation when on-air personalities spread conspiracy theories and falsehoods about its role in the 2020 presidential election. “The Fox Defendants solicited and published calculated falsehoods about Smartmatic,” the company’s legal team said in a brief filed late on Monday in New York Supreme Court (read it here). “They enjoy no protection or immunity pursuant to the First Amendment or New York law.” Fox News and three on-air personalities, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs, are seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, which Smartmatic filed in Feburary. Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who represented the Trump campaign and appeared numerous times on Fox News shows, also were named as defendants. Smartmatic and another voting systems company, Dominion, became the source of false claims that they played a role in rigging the results of the election in favor of Joe Biden. Dominion sued Fox News last month. In their brief, Smartmatic’s lawyers wrote that the Fox anchors “were not innocent bystanders and the disinformation generated during their interviews was no accident.”

Full Article: Smartmatic Responds To Fox News Defense In $2.7 Billion Defamation Lawsuit – Deadline

National: Research undercuts idea that changes to absentee voting in 2020 benefited Democrats | Philip Bump/The Washington Post

President Donald Trump’s dishonest explanation of his 2020 election loss has evolved slightly over time. He was assiduous (a generous way of saying obsessive) about claiming even before Election Day that expanded access to absentee voting posed a risk to him given that mailed ballots were rife with fraud. They were not, despite Trump’s insistences. A conservative organization’s database of purported fraud cases includes only one example of criminal charges centered on fraud in the general election last year: a case in which a father signed his daughter’s ballot while she was at college. The utter lack of credible evidence of fraud prompted Republicans broadly and Trump eventually to shift their complaints to center on how absentee ballot access was increased, conflating their claims that changing those rules violated the Constitution with broad, necessarily vague claims that something, somewhere went wrong, costing the incumbent a second term. For decades, Republicans have used similarly nebulous allegations of fraud to advocate for changing voting rules in ways that tend to disproportionately disadvantage Democratic voters. At times they have been explicit in trying to lock out more Democrats. In the current moment, though, the offered arguments are different, using the same vagueness that Trump is using to rationalize losing to provide their own rationalizations for changes to existing laws. Often, those are framed as being necessary to prevent purported “fraud”; at other times, the changes are instead offered as a way to address “concerns” voters have about election security, concerns Republicans and Trump themselves amplified. It’s become something of a legislative protection racket: claim that there’s a threat and then offer to address the threat. The result? Changes to laws that add restrictions to the ability to vote, particularly by mail.

Full Article: Research undercuts idea that changes to absentee voting in 2020 benefited Democrats – The Washington Post

National: Biden’s Choice for Civil Rights Post Has Worked to Defend Voting Rights | Katie Benner/The New York Times

When Alabama’s Shelby County sued nearly a decade ago to strike down key pieces of the Voting Rights Act, a civil rights lawyer named Kristen Clarke helped to argue that the entire law should be upheld. A district court agreed, reaffirming that local governments with a history of discriminatory voting practices needed federal permission to change their voting laws. Though the Supreme Court ultimately overturned the lower-court ruling, the case helped establish Ms. Clarke as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for voting rights protections. Nominated by President Biden to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, she would if confirmed be likely to play a key role on the issue for the administration, which has made defense of voting rights a priority as states including Georgia work to enact laws that restrict access to the ballot box. Mr. Biden called Georgia’s recently passed legislation “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” and he and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland have said that the government must preserve the right to vote. “I will follow their lead in ensuring that the Civil Rights Division, if I am confirmed, is using the tools in its arsenal — the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Citizens Voting Act — to ensure that eligible Americans have access to the ballot in our country,” Ms. Clarke said on Wednesday during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ms. Clarke, 46, who would be the first Senate-confirmed leader of the Civil Rights Division to be a woman of color, testified alongside Todd Kim, a Justice Department veteran and Mr. Biden’s choice to run its Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Mr. Kim told senators that protecting the nation’s “shared interest in the environment and our natural resources” was a calling.

Full Article: Biden’s Choice for Civil Rights Post Has Worked to Defend Voting Rights – The New York Times

Arizona: A cybersecurity expert who promoted claims of fraud in the 2020 election is leading the GOP-backed recount of millions of ballots | Rosalind S. Helderman/The Washington Post

The nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, Ariz., last fall are currently packaged in 40 cardboard shrink-wrapped boxes and stacked on 45 pallets in a county facility in Phoenix known as “the vault,” due to its sophisticated security and special fire-suppression system. But on order of the Republican-led state Senate, the ballots and the county’s voting equipment are scheduled to be trucked away next week — handed over for a new recount and audit spurred by unsubstantiated claims that fraud or errors tainted President Biden’s win in Arizona’s largest county. The ballots will be scrutinized not by election officials, but by a group of private companies led by a private Florida-based firm, whose owner has promoted claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent and who has been cited as an expert by allies of former president Donald Trump seeking to cast doubt on the election in other parts of the country. Trump supporters, including a lawyer who volunteered with his post-election legal team, have been raising private dollars to supplement $150,000 in taxpayer money that has been earmarked to fund the Arizona recount.

Full Article: A cybersecurity expert who promoted claims of fraud in the 2020 election is leading the GOP-backed recount of millions of ballots in Arizona – The Washington Post

Editorial: Arizona Senate is abusing its authority. End its election ‘audit’ now | Arizona Republic

Republicans in the Arizona Legislature have set aside dollars, hired consultants, procured the hardware and software to conduct what they call “an audit” of the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County. What they don’t have is the moral authority to make it credible. Their conduct post-election has been so nakedly partisan that whatever their audit finds, its results will not be believed. They’ll be mocked and derided. State Senate Republicans insist they are not trying to reverse the election, but are rather trying to build greater trust in the system. But how can anyone trust them? They have overreached from the beginning, abusing their subpoena power to try to criminalize a dispute with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. County officials resisted their demands to hand over county tabulating machines and ballots. The system had already gone through rigorous testing, established by election law. And even the Republican governor of Arizona and the Democrat secretary of state affirmed the integrity of the election.

Full Article: Arizona Senate is abusing its authority. End its election ‘audit’ now

Colorado: Pueblo County clerk posts photos of 2020 ballots for election integrity | Sara Wilson/The Pueblo Chieftain

Pueblo County is posting images of most ballots from the 2020 general election online as a way for citizens to self-audit ballots to verify election results, following an election season rife with debunked claims of fraud in the voting process. “This year because of all of the disinformation — and I want to be specific, not misinformation but knowingly-told lies about the election — I made the decision that I wanted to put it all on my website,” Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz said. “I thought this was the perfect opportunity to show the integrity of our elections.” Ortiz, a Democrat elected to the clerk position in 2006, testified to the State Auditor’s Board in January that he would make ballot images available online. As of April 8, that promise is met. Puebloans can view the 89,155 vote records in two places: on a Google Drive that Ortiz set up or through a pilot program from Dominion Voting System, which requires an email registration. On the Dominion site, users can filter the ballots by precinct, district, electoral contest and whether or not the ballot was adjudicated. Those records show the original ballot and how the machine counted it so viewers can verify that if a voter bubbled in President Joe Biden’s name, the machine recorded it that way.

Full Article: Pueblo County clerk posts photos of 2020 ballots for election integrity

Georgia: Fulton County Elections will be more expensive, more complicated | Ben Brasch/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Having the eyes of the nation trained on you isn’t cheap. That’s why Fulton County spent a record-breaking $38.3 million to run the blockbuster 2020 election cycle. But officials expect elections costs to keep going up. To put the $38 million presidential pricetag into perspective: Fulton spent $9.9 million in 2016 and about $6.1 million in 2012. Compare the $11.1 million the county spent during the historic 2008 election to the $11.5 million the county plans to spend on the 2022 general election. Fulton elections head Richard Barron said Wednesday he expects it will cost $7.2 million to run this year’s municipal election, which includes the Atlanta mayoral contest. That doesn’t include the cost of a runoff. After a calamitous June primary — with some voters waiting hours in line, many because they never received mail-in ballots because Fulton’s system was overwhelmed — the county budgeted to administer the election.

Full Article: Fulton: Elections will be more expensive, more complicated

Georgia: Why Local Election Officials Take Issue With Many Parts Of New Law | Emma Hurt/Georgia Public Broadcasting

Three weeks after it was signed into law, local election officials in Georgia are still trying to understand all the implications of the state’s controversial election overhaul. In a series of interviews, election officials said that while the Republican-led measure has some good provisions, many felt sidelined as the legislation was being debated, and believe that parts of it will make Georgia elections more difficult and expensive. One provision that particularly worries many officials is a new ability for the State Election Board to take over a county’s election management. The law empowers the state panel to take over if, in at least two elections within two years, the board finds “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections.” Tonnie Adams, chief registrar of Heard County on the Alabama state line, said this provision, coupled with another change — which replaces the secretary of state as board chair with an appointee of the General Assembly — are problematic. “The legislature now has three seats that they appoint on the State Election Board,” he said. “We thought that that was a gross overreach of power from one branch of government.” Joseph Kirk, Bartow County’s elections supervisor, also took issue with the hypothetical scenario. The legislature could effectively “replace a bipartisan board [of elections] with a single appointee that has complete control over that department,” Kirk said. “So a person could come in, and hire and fire and discipline as they see fit. And as I read this law, I’m really hoping they never need to go that route.”

Full Article: Why Local Election Officials In Georgia Take Issue With Many Parts Of New Law | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Illinois: Human error at fault for McHenry County election issues | Kelli Duncan/Daily Herald

McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio released a report Wednesday on the problems his office encountered in reporting the April 6 election results, which led to a countywide vote recount and ultimately changed the projected outcome of several school board races. Tirio presented the report at a meeting of McHenry County Board members Thursday morning and began by apologizing to residents. “I know they expected to have the results on election night, and I apologize that they were not entirely accurate,” he said. “A more sincere, heartfelt apology to the candidates that were negatively affected — those that thought they had won and found out the following day that they hadn’t.” The report gave a step-by-step look into how the clerk’s office was alerted of the issue — causing the votes for a several school board races and other down-ballot races to be misreported — and what officials did in the two days that followed. It also gets to the heart of what caused the erroneous reporting. Essentially, the file used to print ballots was an earlier version than the ballot design used to program the county’s vote counting machines, or “tabulators,” the report states. The newer version had additional information about the term duration for school board candidates. The change shifted the ballot’s text so it no longer matched with the “target areas” programmed into the county’s tabulators, which tell the machine where to look for votes, according to the report and comments made by Tirio.

Full Article: Report: Human error at fault for McHenry County election issues

As Michigan G.O.P. Plans Voting Limits, Top Corporations Fire a Warning Shot | Reid J. Epstein and Trip Gabriel/The New York Times

At first glance, the partisan battle over voting rights in Michigan appears similar to that of many other states: The Republican-led Legislature, spurred by former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about election fraud, has introduced a rash of proposals to restrict voting access, angering Democrats, who are fighting back. But plenty of twists and turns are looming as Michigan’s State Senate prepares to hold hearings on a package of voting bills beginning Wednesday. Unlike Georgia, Florida and Texas, which have also moved to limit voting access, Michigan has a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who said last month she would veto any bill imposing new restrictions. But unlike in other states with divided governments, Michigan’s Constitution offers Republicans a rarely used option for circumventing Ms. Whitmer’s veto. Last month, the state’s Republican chairman told activists that he aimed to do just that — usher new voting restrictions into law using a voter-driven petition process that would bypass the governor’s veto pen. In response, Michigan Democrats and voting rights activists are contemplating a competing petition drive, while also scrambling to round up corporate opposition to the bills; they are hoping to avoid a replay of what happened in Georgia, where the state’s leading businesses didn’t weigh in against new voting rules until after they were signed into law. The maneuvering by both parties has turned Michigan into a test case of how states with divided government will deal with voting laws, and how Republicans in state legislatures are willing to use any administrative tool at their disposal to advance Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraud and pursue measures that could disenfranchise many voters. The proposal puts new restrictions on how election officials can distribute absentee ballots and how voters can cast them, limiting the use of drop boxes, for example.

Source: As Michigan G.O.P. Plans Voting Limits, Top Corporations Fire a Warning Shot – The New York Times

Mississippi Secretary of State defends own comment about ‘woke’ voters | Emily Wagster Pettus/Associated Press

Mississippi’s top elections official says he thinks people are doing a “hatchet job” on him over comments he made in a television interview about “woke” and “uninformed” voters on college campuses. Secretary of State Michael Watson, a Republican, said March 26 on WLOX-TV that he opposes any move by the federal government to set new rules about voter registration or mail-in voting. “Think about all these ‘woke’ college university students now who would automatically be registered to vote, whether they wanted to or not,” Watson said. “Again, if they didn’t know to opt out, they would be automatically registered to vote. And then they receive this mail-in ballot that they didn’t even know was coming because they didn’t know they registered to vote. You have an uninformed citizen who may not be prepared and ready to vote, automatically it’s forced on them, ‘Hey, go and make a choice.’ And our country’s going to pay for those choices.”

Full Article: Mississippi official defends own comment about ‘woke’ voters

New Jersey early voting to cost millions more than planned for? | Jeff Pillets/NJ Spotlight News

A comprehensive study of the cost of implementing New Jersey’s early voting law shows taxpayers will have to pony up $77 million — this year alone — just to pay for new voting machines and other essential hardware. That is almost four times the amount set aside in this year’s budget to finance the landmark law, and it does not include millions more needed for the hiring and training of poll workers, facility upgrades and a range of other ongoing expenses. “We’re very disappointed that the governor’s budget does not provide anywhere near enough money,” said John Donaddio, executive director of the New Jersey Association of Counties, which carried out the study and based its findings on data from all 21 counties. “We have no indication where the rest will come from.” Donaddio said his group is seeking to delay the start of early voting, set to begin statewide in October, and may also file a complaint with the state Council on Local Mandates. The council has constitutional authority to effectively nullify state laws or regulations it deems “unfunded mandates” on local governments or boards of education. The governor’s office referred questions to the Department of State, which oversees all elections and maintains the statewide voter registration system.

Full Article: Early NJ voting to cost millions more than planned for? | NJ Spotlight News

Pennsylvania State House committee hears suggestions on improving election laws, but will the Legislature listen? | Julian Routh/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Good government stakeholders and national advocacy groups told lawmakers in Harrisburg on Thursday that incremental changes to the election law can alleviate the burden on stressed-out county workers and make it easier for voters to participate in the process. Their testimony came as the House State Government Committee finished its series of election oversight hearings, intended to give members a firsthand look at what might be needed to tweak the election code in the coming months and years. As Democrats continued to express fears that the Republican-led committee and Legislature will use the hearings to justify a crackdown on voting accessibility and mail-in ballots, a majority of those who testified agreed that changes to the law should be procedural and bipartisan. “As has been noted repeatedly in these hearings, the vast majority of Pennsylvania election law is still from the 1930s,” Committee of Seventy President and CEO David Thornburgh said in written testimony to the committee. “Revamping the entire Election Code may not be possible at this juncture, but the General Assembly has yet another opportunity to substantially modernize Pennsylvania election procedures, maintain election integrity, and improve the customer service experience of eligible voters.” The biggest consensus appeared to be that county election officials need more time to pre-canvass and process the influx of mail-in ballots, something that counties have been calling for since well before last November’s general election.

Full Article: State House committee hears suggestions on improving Pa.’s election laws, but will the Legislature listen? | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Texas voting bills target Democratic strongholds, just like Georgia’s new laws | Jeremy Wallace/Houston Chronicle

After major corporations criticized Georgia for adopting voter restrictions in the wake of Democratic wins there, the spotlight is shifting to Texas as Republican lawmakers advance similar legislation. And just as Georgia Republicans sought to rein in Fulton County — a heavily Democratic county that includes the city of Atlanta — Texas Republicans are targeting large counties run by Democrats with measures that provide possible jail time for local officials who try to expand voting options or who promote voting by mail. That same push is happening in Arizona and Iowa, said Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law. “All of these bills share a common purpose: to threaten the independence of election workers whose main job should be to ensure fair elections free from political or other interference,” Norden said. The Senate is particularly intent on preventing a repeat of 2020, when the interim Harris County clerk, Chris Hollins, promoted novel approaches such as 24-hour voting sites and drive-thru polling places as safe alternatives to indoor voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Democrat-leaning county saw historic turnout that helped Joe Biden come within 5.5 percentage points of the incumbent, Republican Donald Trump.

Full Article: Texas voting bills target Democratic strongholds, just like Georgia’s new laws

Texas: Kolkhorst’s bill requiring a paper trail for all elections systems passes unanimously | Victoria Advocate

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill authored by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst to require a voter-verifiable paper audit trail for all elections systems, according to a Tuesday news release. Senate Bill 598 also prohibits any voting system from being connected to the internet and includes a risk limiting audit to ensure the accuracy of voting systems, according to the news release. The bill was passed in the Senate Monday. Texas will be considered to have one of the most accurate vote counting systems in the nation, said a news release from the state senator’s office. Texas is one of only three states that uses a paperless trail system in some areas. “In 2005, I filed one of the first bills calling for a paper ballot trail to combat election fraud,” said Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. “After many visits with so many concerned constituents and years of efforts I am glad to see this through. Elections are the bedrock of our republic and ensuring that our elections are conducted to the highest standards possible is a must.”

Full Article: Kolkhorst’s bill requiring a paper trail for all elections systems passes unanimously | Victoria |

Wisconsin Senate approves Republican election changes | Todd Richmond/Associated Press

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Senate moved Wednesday to change state elections based largely on false claims that the November election was tainted, passing bills that would make interfering with election observers a crime and barring polling officials from accepting private grants to aid with administration. The proposals are part of a larger package of GOP-authored measures addressing issues former President Donald Trump and his supporters raised following Joe Biden’s narrow win in the battleground state. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has complained about Republican attempts to make absentee voting more difficult, is almost certain to veto every one of them. The bills the Senate passed Wednesday don’t make major changes to the absentee voting system. That legislation, which includes limiting access to drop boxes, has yet to come to the floor in the Senate or Assembly. The most prominent bill the Senate took up addresses Trump supporters’ claims that they weren’t given close enough access to watch Wisconsin’s presidential recount. Under the bill, observers would have to stand within 3 feet of tabulators during a recount. Any election official who intentionally obstructs an observer’s access would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months behind bars and a $1,000 fine. Democrats complained that the bill would allow observers to intimidate tabulators by literally hanging over their shoulders and create fear among tabulators that if they ask an observer for space they’ll be thrown in jail.

Full Article: Wisconsin Senate approves Republican election changes